I wonder how many people start the New Year with a set of new resolutions? No doubt if we could, it would be lovely to know in advance what the outcome would be of our well-meaning hopes and even maybe dreams. Well of course, we can't, can we? And perhaps it's just as well.
The prophecies made by the prophets we read of in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, very often did not foretell the future. Rather, the prophets often exhorted, and even cajoled, and spoke very pointedly about the present, sometimes declaring to the people their misdemeanours, and warning them of the consequences should they persist in their sins.
At other times, they ministered words of comfort and hope to the people in the midst of the troubles that they had brought upon themselves. And although some might think that those prophecies were for the days of the Old Testament, it should be remembered that man’s history is always being repeated - man’s nature has changed little in the course of time - so that many of those prophecies of comfort or coaxing still have a resonance today.
A prophet is one who ‘speaks for’ God, who is impelled to make God's mind known and to declare His message, whether it is for the time being or for some time to come. This we also find to be the case in the New Testament, and is the reason why, for example, the apostle John was charged to write in Revelation concerning the ‘things that are’ as well as the ‘things that shall be hereafter’.(Rev. 1 v 19).
It is well to remember that the word ‘revelation’ itself here simply means an ‘unfolding’. It is like an old scroll that is being unrolled where only one small part is visible at a time, there being much which is still rolled up, so leaving many of the contents hidden from sight.
In the visions of the second and third chapters of the Apocalypse, there is unfolded, or opened to sight, what the Lord discerned was the condition of His Church at that time of writing, and described the characteristics found in each of the seven churches in Asia. It is in these chapters that we see how prophecy is used to warn of the consequences of each church's backsliding, as well as providing some comfortable words of strength and encouragement needed at that time for most of them.
But also, these visions foreshadowed things yet to come to pass. They illustrated what the state and characteristics of the Church would be like through seven periods of time, throughout the future, which would amount to hundreds of years from the time John wrote the Apocalypse. Again, how beautiful was the prophecy uttered by the old man Simeon when it was time for the baby Jesus to be presented at the temple in Jerusalem. The passage described in Luke's gospel (Luke 2 vs.25 – 35) relates how the baby Jesus was taken in the old man's arms and Simeon uttered the wonderful words of the prophesy.
It had been revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that before he died he would see the Christ child. So as he held Jesus, he knew whom he was holding and lifted up his voice in praise to God, during which he uttered the wonderful prophesy - 'A light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of Thy people Israel'.
What a dramatic pronouncement at such a time, saying in effect that not only was this the Christ child for whom Israel had been waiting, but also that the Gentiles would be able to share in this glory that was the Messiah.